A columnist for The Economist confirms what many of us thought was obvious. New is not necessarily better and it's good to keep your nose clean.

Moving from London to Texas (what a shock that must have been), the writer needed a car, and wanted one of the (what was then) shiny new Priuses. But not even a bright green nature could persuade the frugal side to part with $30k.

A little research turned up a previously-titled Honda Civic LX 5-speed for just under $11k. At first, the little Honda got 34 MPG, impressive, but not the 60 MPG claimed by the Prius. But after some basic maintenance (new air filter and an oil change) the Civic's highway numbers jumped to 40 MPG. Sweet. The writer's aunt boosted her hybrid Civic's numbers from 46 mpg to 50 mpg just by properly inflating her tires and setting the cruise control.

So by forgoing the latest and greatest, the author saved almost $20k. By spending $25 on an oil change and $10 on an air filter, the Honda burns fewer gallons of gas. No, the columnist hasn't discovered some ancient automotive secret, but the writer does show how small, inexpensive choices can positively affect the wallets and environments of Prius and H2 drivers alike.

[Source: The Economist]